02 August, 2008

Thaila Thai II

82 Lygon St, Brunswick East; 03 9387 0659

It's on its way to institution status, this Lygon St restaurant known for the size of its portions (let's just say platter is a better description than plate), value for money and the queues of eager patrons waiting for tables or takeaway. When you can snag a table, you'll find yourself seated at and on plastic and in a hubbub of noise, from echoing conversations to the crash and bang of the open kitchen. Not to mention, more often than not, a haze of steam and smoke, pushed into the eating area from the open front door.

It's worth noting that Thaila Thai has now introduced a minimum charge per person. At $11.50 per head, gone are the days of $16 dinner for two, with entree, main and corkage. They're happy to pack up leftovers though, so order up and relive the flavour for lunch the next day.

Thaila Thai invites patrons to build their own stir fries: choose your meat (or tofu or seafood) and sauce and they'll throw in seasonal vegetables. At a warmer time of year these included crisp asparagus; now that the weather has cooled sweet mushy pumpkin features.
The tom yaam and tom kha soups are extraordinary value at $5. Rather than the teacup-sized portion you might expect from other restaurants for that price, here the tom kha is a brimming bowl filled with rich, coconuty, lemony broth. Massive pieces of vegetable - carrot, capsicum, bok choy - sit in the liquid, too big to float, along with chunky strips of firm tofu. The chilli metre is spot on - enough to reach for your serviette, but not too much so as to overpower the herbed broth.
A serve of vegetable spring rolls, ordered to round up the bill to the minimum charge, were less inspiring. Six small rolls came with a particularly uninspiring, watery sauce. The rolls were better embellished when dipped into the tom kha.

Corkage is fifty cents, and the Quarry bottle shop is just across the road. If that's not a value dinner I don't know what is.

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